Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast Netflix review: More than an escapist’s time suck
A warm oak house on a large plot of land in Jeju Island. Five dogs running amok in the yard while three cats laze around inside. Unlike suspenseful K-dramas peppered with subplots with masterful twists and turns, Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast is a reality show without much conflict or resolution.
Cameras are set up around the house and the B&B welcomes guests from various walks of life. Hyori and Sang Soon are never told who is coming or how many people will arrive. They make adjustments along the way, like renting a caravan and a ‘ger’ to fit more people. At full capacity, some guests even opt to sleep in a tent on their lawn.
The guests come and go. While some don’t leave much of an impression, the dialogue between guests and the celebrity-B&B hosts are ordinary yet warm. These scenes are interspliced with the beautiful scenery and attractions in Jeju as the cameras follow the guests as well.
Each episode is over an hour. Despite its slow pace, I couldn’t stop watching. When I stumbled upon the show on Netflix, I didn’t know that Hyori Lee was a diva singer dubbed as “Beyoncé of South Korea” who was known for her sex appeal and candidly brutal personality. She originally debuted with Fin.K.L in 1998 and later went solo in 2003.
Her detractors read her blog and watch Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast with disdain, knowing that she could only enjoy what she has because she had a superstar career. Hyori candidly admitted in an interview on Happy Together in 2017 that she shut down her blog eventually because it made people feel bad about their lives.
But knowing her background only added to the show’s appeal for me. It was comforting to watch her voluntary retreat from a glitzy life to a slow, almost-boring one with her husband Sang Soon. She spends her time caring for the various animals that she adopted and makes music on the side. Most days, the highlight of her day is watching the sun set or doing yoga.
It was also relatable. Many of us understand the yearning to take a breather from life’s responsibilities and abandon the corporate rat race where money and recognition are never enough. At the grand age of 30, I do.
So I lived vicariously through the couple. After all, having tea, napping in the middle of the day for no reason at all and going for a walk in the park are not things that only superstars can do. Even working mothers like me, who attend to corporate duties and have a child to care for can take a few moments to switch off.
I started to drink tea while staring into space like Sang Soon. I pause to stretch when I feel suffocated by my micromanaging boss, or when my daughter prepares for bed. On weekends, I occasionally allowed myself to nap when my daughter napped, rather than doing more chores or freelance work. I learned to turn off my phone by 11pm so I can sleep earlier.
I learned that it is okay. It is okay to rest and look out of my apartment window and observe the clouds and the trees with no purpose at all. I also feel inspired to adopt a dog in need (though I worry about the compatibility with my cats).
These relaxing things sound normal but doing them requires a special skill that I’ve de-prioritised over the years, which is to switch off the inundating noise of the world and listen to the little voice in your head.
With a black screen in our hands, there are constantly things to do, read, watch, buy, etc. In today’s age, if there is a void, something will fill it. It’s kinda like Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. While I may never get to live in a house like Hyori’s, at least I can learn from their pared-down lifestyle and disregard my devices more. I learned that I can entertain the fleeting thoughts that go: “I’m so tired”, “I want to paint”, “My body hurts”, and such.
Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast: IU vs Yoona
Aside from the slow scenes of comfort, the appeal for many Korean viewers is living in a bed & breakfast run by celebrities. Surprisingly, while there is no conflict, the dialogue is refreshingly honest and thus interesting. *Spoilers ahead* (although I see how a show like this can be spoiled haha)
The first celebrity part-timer in Season 1 (2017) was Lee Ji-Eun, a singer-songwriter who goes by the name IU. She confides to Hyori that she tends to suppress her feelings and bury herself in work.
Compared to Yoon-A, who comes on the show in Season 2 (2018), it is evident that IU has a rich inner world and does not wear her heart on her sleeve. She is a little introverted and awkward. Regardless, she shone when she was tasked to write lyrics to a song composed by Hyori.
Yoon-A, on the other hand, is warm and affable. Not only does she make people feel at ease, she is capable too. On the show, she drives, cooks, and takes charge of the B&B when Hyori falls ill. While she deliberates over writing lyrics for the song “To You” and claims that she isn’t good at it, she eventually does a great job and an even better one at singing it.
Although Hyori is considered senior to these two girls, she instructs them in the house but never lords over them. She also turns vulnerable at one point when IU meets a fan in Jeju Island. The fan cried upon meeting IU but did not pay much attention to Hyori who stayed in the car.
On the way home, Hyori spoke about being worried that her popularity will wane given that younger celebrities like IU are taking over, but she is also proud of IU, like an older sister. It was a refreshing take. Yes it is a reality show, but it showed viewers that celebrities are normal human beings too.
Park Bo Gum: The only male part-timer at Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast
Another celebrity that came on the show for just a few episodes was Park Bo Gum. The singer and actor proclaimed to be a fan of Hyori and volunteered to help out at the B&B for 3 days since Sang Soon had to go to Seoul for a business trip.
Bo Gum captured the heart of the ladies staying at the B&B but also showed himself to be a hard worker. He even cleaned the cat poop from the litter box even though he was not instructed to do so, making Hyori all heart-eyed.
Hyori’s mop, waffle maker and vacuum flew off the shelves
As can be expected, appliances that were used in Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast became wildly popular. People were searching for “Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast mop brand”. The waffle maker that Yoon-A and Hyori used together soon sold out. Apparently, even though there were many offers for product placements, they were all turned down in order not to “ruin the integrity of the show”.
In fact, property prices in Jeju Island also soared and Hyori was once again criticised for that.
Oh well, the house where Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast was filmed at has been sold to the TV network after repeated trespassing incidents, so it is probably unlikely that there will be another Season 3.
The show was a random find from which I never expected to receive more than a voyeuristic escape. But it warmed the cockles of my quarter-life-crisis heart. I love it for showing me a slower rhythm of life.